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Paul Oakley Stovall: no 'Qualms' about Steppenwolf show Paul Oakley Stovall: no 'Qualms' about Steppenwolf show
Steppenwolf Theatre Company has a brand-new show titled The Qualms, and one ...

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Theater: A Devil Inside
2006-06-21

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Playwright: David Lindsay-Abaire

At: The Right Brain Project at Breadline Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice Ave.

Phone: 773-750-2033; $15

Runs through: July 2

BY MARY SHEN BARNIDGE

For starters, we've got a Mom who keeps the severed feet of her 400-pound husband, murdered 14 years earlier, preserved in a jar. We also have a student obsessed with Tolstoy's Anna Karenina stalking her Russian Lit teacher, who identifies with Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov. Then, there's the podophile artist living with a repairman who sees devils in his wallpaper. Oh, and there's a college boy whose mother—the aforementioned widow—demands that he avenge his father's death. Our location is Manhattan ( sinking into the ocean ) , our McGuffin is a tie-clip ( possibly possessed of magical powers ) and our universe is a morass replete with incidents of bizarre violence, reflected in the relics that Mom wears on her person at all times ( among them, her late husband's belt, her late brother's baby blanket, her late mother's fully-loaded revolver and—somewhat prematurely—her not-yet-late son's skateboard ) .

And you know what? We STILL don't give a damn. Author David Lindsay-Abaire adopts the plot formula popularized by Canadian playwright George F. Walker, to wit: take a bunch of creepy wackos, throw them together and let them run. But there is nothing in these extreme personalities to amuse any but fans of that brand of British humor that revels in watching uniformly unpleasant caricatures get their comeuppance. Even Lindsay-Abaire's trademark cuddly-geriatric-cripples ( ref. Fuddy Meers, Kimberly Akimbo ) are curiously absent this time, though two of his characters are alleged to be amputees wearing prosthetic feet, and another becomes paralyzed in the course of the action, leading him to savagely slash his useless legs, which are then dressed out in the obligatory bloody bandages.

The Right Brain Project personnel retain THEIR footing admirably while

careening like stunt-jumpers through their madcap text's hi-jinks—in particular, Colby Sellers' body language in the scene where he struggles against an invisible demon dragging him by one ankle. Joseph Stearns, on loan from the Signal Ensemble, generates a flash or two of sympathy in his portrayal of the nutty professor. And the tech F/X—among them, a man spun to death in an automatic dryer—are ingeniously executed. Their efforts deserve a worthier play.


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